Susanna Matingou was recently awarded the Bob Marley Peace Prize by the World Beat Cultural Center of San Diego for her pro bono work with immigrants. Ms. Matingou was instrumental in securing the freedom of a 19-year-old Somali asylum-seeker at trial in federal immigration court in San Diego. The young man fled to the United States after members of his family were killed by Somali militia. Because he arrived in the U.S. without papers, he was detained for 10 months until trial. Ms. Matingou established his identity at trial through testimony of family members who knew him but had never met him.
Ms. Matingou also procured the humanitarian release of a lawful permanent resident immigration detainee who has a pacemaker and diabetes. The client had lived and worked in the United States for 23 years. He was able to await his recent immigration proceedings at home and while receiving proper medical care. In March 2010, following a recent change in Ninth Circuit precedent, Ms. Matingou made a motion to withdraw her client's earlier concession of removability and argued that the court should terminate proceedings based on the change in law. Complicating the issue was the fact that the parties had already completed one day of trial and the court was preparing to set a date for the final day of trial. On June 1, 2010, the court ruled for Ms. Matingou's client and terminated all proceedings. He is now back at home in New Jersey with his permanent residency intact, and is applying for U.S. citizenship.